One of the best things about running is the people you meet along the way. I find that long distance running collects a certain breed of human – one who is able to hang tight with pain over a long period of time, slightly addicted to endorphins and in general, optimistic.

One of the most incredible runners that I have had the pleasure to meet this year has been Jane Davis. Although she has been running her entire life, she has only been running ultras since 2010 (coincidently, the same year that I tried my hand at one as well), but she has taught me something completely vital about running.

That there has to be a reason for it.

janeJane lost her husband to prostate cancer three years ago and in response to his passing, started running. I don’t think this is an unusual reaction to tragedy, but Jane has taken it a step further and has joined Team Winter, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2009 by Winter Vinecki, now thirteen, who is running a marathon on every continent in memory of her father who also passed away from prostate cancer.

Considering what Jane has been through, she is one of the most alive and eternally optimistic people I know. She was the only other female on the 100 Miles of Wild trek I participated in at the end of April, so I got to know her quite well over the week we spent in the Badlands. The day we ran together on the trek was full of conversation that shifted from heartfelt to hilarity within the same sentence.

11759_10152798157865704_511160546_nI was so inspired by her ability to push hard through knee deep mud, steep river beds and stretching flat lands and her deep understanding of needing to know when to stop. To take care of you. It was her who told me to stop at a beautiful hotel on my way home instead of driving straight though. “Sometimes you need to just do things for yourself.” she told me.

She was so incredibly right.

To her, running is time to be with her husband Quincy. Every race she runs, is for him and with him. We were discussing our post race routines and for her, the first thing she does is gather her daughter into her arms, look up to the sky and say thank you to Quincy.

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Jane trains and races in the beautiful Washingtonwhere she is an active leader for Girls on the Run on top of her efforts with Team Winter. I have viewed running as something selfish – a time that I take for myself to breathe, think, pray, and run out frusterations. Jane has turned it into something beautiful and selfless that is used to make a difference in the lives of others, to share her love of running and to inspire change in education for girls. She is moving to Africa this coming to year to pour herself into female health education and to run the Maasai ultra marathon (for the second time) which raises funds for the cause.

As I search for my own purpose behind the many miles that I log on the trails beyond just the sheer passion for running, I am so blessed to have such an incredible friend to model my running career after.

Jane Davis, you are an inspiration.

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